How to Talk to Your Parents About Senior Living Options

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How to Talk to Your Parents About Senior Living Options
Adult child embracing parent while talking about senior living options

You can’t help your loved one plan or make a decision about senior living by avoiding having this sensitive conversation. Talking to your parent about senior living requires plenty of preparation and patience. Instead of postponing the conversation for as long as possible, you can create a receptive environment that encourages your parent or loved one to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions about moving to a senior living community.

Below, we outline the general steps for starting this conversation so you can get a better idea of how to initiate a talk with your loved ones regarding senior living.


1. Determine Why You Want to Discuss Senior Living

Before you can begin to talk about senior living with your loved one, ensure you fully understand why you believe a senior living community is a viable option for them. 

Medical Concerns

Perhaps you believe senior living would be a safe option for your loved one due to a history of falls at home. Approximately 1 in 4 seniors in America fall each year, making it a major public health concern that can lead to serious injuries and unexpected hospital stays. 

Senior living communities are designed to decrease fall risks thanks to environmental adjustments, and they have dedicated team members widely available to provide assistance as needed.

Other medical concerns that could lead you to believe senior living is a good option include recent medication management accidents or errors, a complex medical condition, or chronic pain.

Personal and Social Opportunities

Medical concerns may not be at the top of your list, which is absolutely OK. You might believe that senior living is an excellent option because of the healthy socialization opportunities that can decrease negative health outcomes, chef-styled meals that provide better nutrition, or simply the reassurance of knowing someone is there in case of an emergency. 

Staff members are also available to help with chores such as laundry and cleaning to further contribute to a low-maintenance lifestyle, giving residents more free time to explore their interests. 

It can be helpful to write down the reasons you believe senior living could be a good choice for your loved one. If the list is particularly long, narrow it down to your top three for use during your conversation. This list can be a helpful reference for you as your loved one’s needs change.


2. Talk to Your Family Members

Before talking to your parent about senior living, take the time to gather and weigh opinions from trusted family members. Depending on your family dynamics, bringing up your concerns or soliciting the opinions of your family members may help to clarify the decision and provide new perspectives.

Take a deep breath and remember that your loved one has many people who care about them, and their opinions matter, too. If you have siblings, involve them by getting their opinions in a nonconfrontational manner. Simply ask how they think your loved one is doing at home. Try asking questions such as, “Are they thriving there or simply getting by?” Then, listen to their answers; you might be surprised at how they view the situation.

It’s helpful to get feedback and opinions from others in your family because they’re likely a significant part of the decision-making process. Plus, everyone has a different perspective of your loved one’s needs and how they’re doing at home based on their own visits or conversations.


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3. Start the Conversation

You’re now ready to take the first step toward a healthy and productive conversation with your loved one about senior living communities. Keep the following tips in mind as the conversation progresses:

Be Sensitive to Their Perspective

Although you feel ready to have a conversation about senior living, it might come as a shock to your loved one. Be sensitive to their initial surprise or confusion.

Try to resist the urge to have a conversation with other people present because that might intimidate your loved one and cause them to respond defensively. This isn’t an intervention but instead an open conversation between you and your loved one.

Lay Out Your Reasoning

Share your thoughts about senior living communities calmly. Consider talking about specific incidents or diagnoses that have made you worry about your loved one’s safety, mental health, or general well-being. Then, talk a bit about how senior living could fill those gaps.

Additionally, avoid using language that puts you at the center. Instead, put their needs at the center of the conversation. Take this example: 

In some cases, family members are surprised at how eager their loved ones are to begin exploring senior living. In fact, seniors can be intrigued with senior living communities but may be worried about bringing it up to family members. If your loved one seems curious or ready to begin exploring their options, go with it and help to facilitate tours of communities near their desired location.

Instead of saying

Try saying

“I will feel better knowing you are in a senior living community where people can help if you fall.”

“I know that fall last month scared you. If you live in a senior living community, someone will always be there to help if that happens again, which will be one less thing for you to worry about.”


Highlight the Benefits

Show the value of senior living communities by talking about the amenities and services that will enhance your loved one’s lifestyle or eliminate a chore they dislike. If your parents hate keeping up with lawn care, they may love that senior living communities offer a maintenance-free lifestyle. Or take an older adult who finds cooking three times a day exhausting—they might love the fact that senior living offers programs such as Crafted by Cedarhurst℠, which serves delicious meals to share among neighbors in a social dining room.

Don’t Rush the Conversation

Finally—and most importantly—stop the conversation when it’s no longer productive or if your loved one becomes angry or defensive. Switch the subject to something more pleasant. Then, revisit the idea at a later date. It’s normal to have this conversation more than once, and progress is often gradual.

4. Be Ready to Be Surprised

In some cases, family members are surprised at how eager their loved ones are to begin exploring senior living. In fact, many older adults are intrigued by senior living communities but may be unsure about bringing it up with their family members. If your loved one seems curious or ready to begin exploring their options, encourage them by helping set up some tours of communities near their desired location.

5. Revisit the Conversation

In some cases, the decision to begin looking at senior living communities isn’t finalized after one conversation. Instead, the discussion should be ongoing. You will likely have to revisit the conversation several times over a series of weeks or months, making steady progress. Bringing up the topic multiple times provides your loved one with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and express their opinions after they’ve had time to think about them.

To restart the conversation, begin by asking questions. You can use openers such as “Have you given any thought to senior living since we talked about it last?” or “Would you be interested in going to this upcoming event at the senior living community your neighbor Betty moved to?”

Remember that your loved one may have a lot of questions about senior living that they simply aren’t sure how or when to ask. Be patient and prepared to revisit the conversation multiple times.

6. Involve Your Loved One at All Times

Make it clear that your loved one is an integral and active part of the decision-making process. In fact, your role is to advocate for them so they can live the lifestyle they want and access the services they need. 

You can involve your loved one in various ways, such as:

If your loved one has a financial advisor, involve them in the decision-making process as well. Taking the extra step to advocate for your loved one’s budget preferences also reinforces that you are there to support their decisions—not to make them on their behalf.

Finally, senior living communities offer more than a place to hang your hat; they cultivate an entire lifestyle. Encourage your loved one to experience the lifestyle before they make a decision by asking them if they would like to attend meals or events at senior living communities of interest.

When Talking to Your Parent About Senior Living, Timing Is Everything

Starting the conversation about senior living sooner rather than later gives you and your loved one the time to make a well-informed choice so you can both avoid making any hasty decisions. Having a plan for how to execute this conversation is the first step toward reaching a mutual understanding about the benefits of moving to a senior living community.

Be patient, don’t rush, and keep the focus on them. Talking to a parent about senior living isn’t always easy, but you can ensure you’re prepared with our guide to having conversations about senior living.

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This post was originally published in April 2021 and updated in June 2024.

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